Experience the world's second-biggest country through television, music and books, explore hearty Canadian flavours, and check out the bears of Vancouver's Grouse Mountain online.
Where to go in Canada
Across recent years, Vancouver has traditionally been one of Air New Zealand's most popular destinations, and British Columbia's biggest city is a great base for exploring the country's west coast. Dine on dishes inspired by indigenous First Nations cuisine at Vancouver's Salmon n' Bannock – including slow-braised bison, wild rice and game sausages - before crossing the harbour to Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. View the webcams on
to see what the peak's resident bears are up to during Canada's northern hemisphere summer.
From June to September is also a good time to visit nearby Whistler, especially for ziplining, ATV adventures, and the thrills of the Cloudraker Sky Bridge, while orca and humpback whales are regular visitors to the bohemian port of Tofino on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island.
What to listen to and watch
Fire up a Spotify playlist with tracks from Canadian musical icons including Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang and Joni Mitchell, or bring things more up to date with music from The Weeknd and Feist. Barenaked Ladies are the biggest Canadian band you've most likely never heard of, while
The Trinity Session
, 1988's debut album by Toronto's Cowboy Junkies, perfectly encapsulates Canada's wide-open landscapes. Contemporary acts blending hip hop and traditional sounds from Canada's indigenous First Nations community include the Snotty Nose Rez Kids and The Halluci Nation. Check out
, Taika Waititi's new comedy on Disney+, for music from The Halluci Nation.
Netflix is the home of Canadian sitcoms, including the big-hearted humour of Schitt's Creek, while Kim's Convenience – about a Korean-Canadian family in Toronto – is lesser-known but equally entertaining. Also on Netflix, the fifth episode of season three of Somebody Feed Phil sees US comedy writer Phil Rosenthal exploring the multi-cultural food scene of nearby Montreal. Haitian food, Quebecois flavours, and the wood-fired bagels that inspired Kiwi chef Al Brown all feature.
What to read about Canada
Humour's also at the heart of the best of Canadian memoirs and travel writing. Comedian Mike Myers, creator of
, penned the bestselling
(2016) for the country's sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) in 2017, while books from Canadian travel writer Will Ferguson are both funny and insightful. Binge on
Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw:
Travels in Search of Canada
How to Be a Canadian
Why I Hate Canadians
(1999) for a fast-tracked and very entertaining understanding of the United States' sprawling northern neighbour.
What to eat to experience Canada
Canada's contribution to the world of comfort food is undoubtedly poutine, a messy Montreal concoction of french fries topped with melted cheese curds and gravy. Recipes abound online and Auckland's Federal Delicatessen and Lord of the Fries both do standout versions. Follow Auckland's Poutine Machine on Instagram @poutinenz for details of regular pop-up locations around the city. Smoked meats inspired by delis such as Montreal's iconic Schwartz's also feature at the Fed, while owner Al Brown's take on traditional Montreal-style wood-fired bagels – smaller and sweeter than their New York cousins – are served at Best Ugly Bagels and available at specialist stores including Farro Fresh.
To explore Canadian cuisine in depth, read the excellent Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip (2017). Equal parts travelogue and cookbook, more than 100 recipes include contributions from farmers, First Nations elders and renowned Canadian chefs.
What to drink
Unfortunately, Canada's refreshing Moosehead lager is currently not available in New Zealand, but it is possible to buy Belgian-style craft beers from Quebec's Unibroue Brewery from Liquorland Newmarket in Auckland and online from The Beer Cellar (
). The crazy brewing wizards at Behemoth Brewing (
) regularly use maple syrup in a few of their seasonal beers – most recently in their All Day Breakfast Blueberry Maple Sour Ale – while the intense flavours of British Columbia's renowned "ice wine" are channelled in the dessert wine style of Cidre de Glace from Peckham's in Tasman's Upper Moutere Valley (
). For a taste of the artisan distilling scene in Canada, pick up a bottle of Empress 1908 Blue Gin – tinged indigo with the addition of butterfly pea flowers – from Fine Wine Delivery (